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I have an everyday account in a bank in Germany and a Visa credit card account in the same bank. At the end of each month the negative credit card balance is automatically balanced by an automated transaction from the everyday account because I signed a special document for that in a bank office.

On Monday last week a German bank officer called me to update my address and, hearing from me that I left Germany and live in a non-European country, told me that the bank must close my accounts because I do not live in Germany. He said he would block my credit card in one week, i.e., by Monday this week, and asked me to send him by post a signed request to close my accounts and an instruction as to where he should transfer my money to.

At the moment of the call, I had ~1,600 Euro on my everyday account and a zero balance on the credit card account.

I got afraid that the bank might find a formal pretext not to send me any money at all, because I might have violated the contract with the bank by failing to inform the bank about leaving Germany.

Because of that fear, I decided to urgently withdraw almost all of my German money via ATMs, but could not use the Maestro debit card linked to the everyday account because I forgot the PIN code as a result of not using it for a long time.

For this reason, I decided to use the Visa credit card to urgently withdraw the money. By withdrawing cash from ATMs and making some purchases, I charged my credit card by ~1,550 Euro (including all fees), so the sum of balances on the everyday account and the credit card became just about +50 Euro. My motivation was to ensure that I neither owe anything nor leave any substantial money in Germany.

On Monday this week, i.e., yesterday, the bank officer sent me an email notifying me that he had blocked my credit card as he had promised and repeating that he needs a signed request to close my everyday account and an instruction as to where he should send my money to.

Today (on Tuesday) I wanted to send him what he wants, but first logged on to my online banking to check things and found that the credit card account entirely disappeared from there. What I can see online is only the everyday account with a balance of ~1,600 Euro. Nothing else. And this instantly triggered an alarm in my mind.

My question: What should I expect to happen with the credit card account and the debt on it?

More specifically, I want to know which of the following two scenarios will happen if I sent a letter as required by the bank officer:

  • Scenario 1: The bank will use my money on the everyday account to balance the debt on the credit card and then will transfer the difference (~50 Euro) to me.

  • Scenario 2: The bank will transfer ~1,600 Euro from my everyday account to me, and I will have to directly deal with Visa or a debt collection agency regarding the debt on the credit card (~1,550 Euro).

I did not even think about the possibility of Scenario 2, and I strongly dislike that scenario for many reasons (my lack of knowledge how to handle this, very slow and unreliable post in my country, many potential difficulties and fees, possible negative impact on some credit score of mine, etc.). I strongly prefer Scenario 1.

The bank officer responsible for my accounts was unavailable today and will be back to office only on Thursday (i.e., the day after tomorrow), and I am afraid to involve any other bank officer because it might complicate the issue. I do not know whether I should urgently do something to avoid Scenario 2, so I decided to ask here. Any advice about how to best sort out the issue is very welcome.

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    How is this different from money.stackexchange.com/questions/112387/… – RonJohn Aug 13 at 23:20
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    "I did not even think about the possibility of Scenario 2" I specifically warned you about that – Ben Voigt Aug 14 at 14:15
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    Note that "directly deal with Visa" is not a possibility... Visa has not extended you credit, they simply facilitate payments from your credit card account with the bank to the merchants where you shop. – Ben Voigt Aug 14 at 14:15
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    @glglgl The bank officer was not in office on Thursday, as I got an automated reply asking me to contact him on Friday (i.e., today). I just sent an email asking him whether Scenario 1 is going to happen. If he says yes, I will send him a signed letter in which I will explicitly instruct the bank to first balance the credit card debt and then wire the remainder to me. If the bank officer says something different, I will have to think what to do. By the way, I wrote a detailed post explaining how I managed to withdraw money from my credit card: money.stackexchange.com/a/112643/88939 – Sandra Aug 16 at 7:27
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    @glglgl The bank officer responded by email saying that Scenario 1 is going to happen. He wrote he will wait until the end of the calendar month to ensure that my credit card debt is paid by an automated transaction from my everyday account. Then he will close all my accounts and wire the remainder to me. Just to ensure that the bank won't mess up, I am sending a letter explicitly instructing the bank to first balance my credit card debt and then wire the remainder to me. – Sandra Aug 17 at 17:08
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What happens with a credit card account in Germany after the card is blocked

Nothing really. It is still there, just that card cannot be used to access it any more. In your case, the bank won't issue a new one (unlike the more common situation of a card being blocked because it's lost or stolen).

Unless you settle the account manually (online) or ask the bank to do so, it will be settled as usual at the usual date.

bank must close my accounts because I do not live in Germany

AFAIK there is no legal must, but the bank can choose not to serve you any more. (And an existing bank account can become totally unpractical if your cards expire and they don't send new ones to non-domestic addresses)

IMHO, the fact that they asked you to ask them to close your account (as opposed to them sending you a notice of termination of the contract) seems to point into the direction that they rather not serve you any longer: closing of the contract by the bank without any important reason that would justify immediately closing the account the notice period for the bank closing the account is longer (at least 2 months) than the notice period for you ending the contract (IIRC, not longer than 1 month).


How to get to scenario 1

Instruct your bank to first settle the credit card and then wire you only the remainder. Alternatively, you can instruct them to close the account and wire the remainder at a date after the automatic settlement date of the credit card.

BTW, they'll have to provide you with closing statements for both accounts - whether the credit card is invisible to you online or not.


I got afraid that the bank might find a formal pretext not to send me any money at all, because I might have violated the contract with the bank by failing to inform the bank about leaving Germany.

The bank is legally required to hand the remainder of your money back to you, regardless of them deactivating the account (like any prepaid phone card provider etc.).

  • Obviously, you'll have to tell them where to wire that money (or to go and collect it in person).

  • In order to charge you for a violation of their conditions, that fee would need to be listed in their services fees list (and such a fee would still possibly (probably?) be illegal).

  • There was a court case that found a bank not being justified in charging a closing fee of 10.23 €.
  • While wiring money within the SEPA zone usually doesn't cost any fees for private customers with German banks, my guess would be that they can charge you with the costs they have for the international transfer of your money (or your new bank charges you e.g. for receiving foreign currency).

The advise of the bank officer to withdraw pretty much the whole balance from the account via the credit card sounds to me pretty much the best advise the bank officer can give you without any special knowledge about your new situation (e.g. your exact fees for receiving wired money): That way, you have most of your money immediately (while international transfers can take a while, and also the process of closing your account may take some time) and as long as they give a decent exchange rate with the credit card and no or low withdrawal fees the fees may be much lower this way (within Germany the recommendation is ususally also to wire the full balance to your new account and then request closing to avoid the money being inaccessible during the processing of the closing request).

A balance of 50 € should lead to some money arriving in your new account.
However, if there are fees for wiring the money internationally (ask them and your new bank!), it may be cheapest to let your claim to the remainder expire (end of period of prescription: 3 years after the end of the year when closing the account) iff you can withdraw so that the remaining balance is below those fees, say, down to a few €.

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    Thanks a lot, this is really an excellent and detailed answer. I am going to follow your advice. I will write a short email to the bank officer asking him whether Scenario 1 is going to take place, and if he responds by saying yes, then I will send a signed letter in which I will explicitly instruct the bank to first balance the credit card debt and then wire the remainder to me. If the bank officer says something different, I will have to think what to do, depending on what he says. – Sandra Aug 14 at 17:38
  • The bank officer responded by email saying that Scenario 1 is going to happen. He wrote he will wait until the end of the calendar month to ensure that my credit card debt is paid by an automated transaction from my everyday account. Then he will close all my accounts and wire the remainder to me. Just to ensure that the bank won't mess up, I am sending a letter explicitly instructing the bank to first balance my credit card debt and then wire the remainder to me. – Sandra Aug 17 at 17:02

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